We are immersed in a social attitude that pits our minds against our bodies. Various media tell us to be sexy but not sexual, that our bodies aren’t and will never be good enough, that this or that superfood will be the key to longevity and a thigh gap. Is it any surprise that nearly everyone is fighting an incessant internal battle with their bodies and food?
Trendy ways of eating are tirelessly revised and rewritten, and we are constantly fed information about the best of what to eat and when. We are coerced into eating when we’re not hungry, or not eating when we are hungry; mindlessly consuming food that doesn’t taste good and enjoying less of what delights us. It’s no wonder that more and more of us are throwing in the towel and raise a white flag in the fight with food.
So how do you make peace with food?
It’s tricky: letting go of the fight with food is not like quitting smoking or quitting biting your nails. We need food. It’s required for life. We eat and drink for fun with friends and for business with bosses. But how do you sift through what doesn’t work and find out what’s most beneficial for your particular body?
Here’s the thing: just like so many worthwhile endeavors, it’s a journey. One that takes experimentation and a light heart. One that challenges us on on every level: physically, intellectually, even spiritually.
What are you hungry for?
Food can signify a celebration or special occasion, like a sprinkled birthday cupcake or Thanksgiving turkey. It can be a comfort: warm oatmeal on a winter morning or a cocktail after a long day. None of these things are inherently negative. Only when you begin to use food in place of some other kind of nourishment, issues arise.
When you eat to the point of being uncomfortable because you’re lonely. When you become terrified of gluten or sweets because you are afraid you’ll lose control. Some people count calories because it makes them feel safe and disciplined, while others adhere to strict eating schedules because that’s what they’ve seen their parents do since childhood.
The emotion, conflict, and connotations surrounding types of food, what it means to be hungry and when we choose to eat is enough to make your head spin. Most people have a lot invested into their eating habits. But we can acknowledge these things, figure out what’s useful, and ditch the rest as we end the fight with food. And when we stop fighting food, we stop fighting ourselves.
All relationships take work.
Including the one you have with food. By committing to healing your relationship with food, you are committing to healing your relationship with your body. You are devoting yourself to the pursuit of your highest, wisest self, acknowledging that the body is infinitely more wise than the mind. Your body knows exactly what it needs and when, and all you have to do is just take the time listen to her. By getting quiet and tuning in, you can begin to trust what your body is telling you. With trust comes ease, sweetly and unobtrusively.
The unimaginable begins to happen when you trust: you find that you’re no longer eating beyond fullness or shameful about enjoying dessert. You begin to experiment with preparing healthy food because it makes you feel good, and honor when you’d love to enjoy an occasional burger. You begin to pass on fries because you just don’t feel like them right now. When the stigma surrounding certain food melts away, it becomes easier and less dramatic to deal with.
Just like relationships, there is no one way to “make it work.” Friends, family, therapists and bartenders can lend a much-needed ear and offer advice, but it’s up to you to find out what works. This process takes patience and inquiry, and can involve everything from angry tearful outbursts to victorious rapture to blissful contentedness.
Give yourself what you really need
When you eat, you are feeding your physical body with energy that it needs to keep your heart beating, you muscles working, and your brain synapses firing. But the way you nourish your physical self can also be reflection of how you nourish yourself mentally and spiritually.
Lovingly prepare your meals when you can. Savor bites and sips because they taste good, and because eating should be pleasurable! Elevate your eating experience to one that involves reverence for your body and how it uses the energy from plants, animals and sunshine to fuel its systems. It’s a magical process!
You will have days where you forget to have lunch because you’re in the middle of a great conversation with a friend, or hiking a breathtaking mountain trail. There will also be days where you buried your bad day in a pan of brownies. Acknowledging setbacks and accomplishments with the consideration you’d give a dear friend: would you criticize your best pal for indulging at the office party? Never. You’d offer sweet words of encouragement and do you best to make him laugh. Can you have that same compassion for yourself when your eating goes a little askew?
Making peace with food is no easy task. It requires softness and forgiveness with ourselves, the ones we tend to be the hardest on. But inviting just a little bit of ease and kindness into mealtimes is a great place to start.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating © Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014
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P.S. If you haven’t had a chance to check out our FREE information-packed video series, The Dynamic Eating Psychology Breakthrough, you can sign up for it HERE. It’s a great way to get a better sense of the work we do here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. If you’re inspired by this work and want to learn about how you can become certified as an Eating Psychology Coach, please go HERE to learn more. And if you’re interested in working on your own personal relationship with food, check out our breakthrough 8-week program designed for the public, Transform Your Relationship with Food, HERE.